FemTech and Local Collaborative Outreach

FemTechNet is a loosely organized network of scholars and activists engaging in feminism, technology, and cyberfeminism. Their activities take a number of forms. Among the most prominent is the Distributed Open Online Course, a more collaborative approach to the traditional Massive Open Online Course model prizing respect for diveresity and difference and embracing variety in ways of learning. This sort of approach typifies many FemTechNet activities. There is a tendency toward taking existing technological models and educational models and retooling them to be more inclusive, collaborative, and supportive.

These courses are a main mode of FemTechNet outreach, and have been supported as a model for further collaborative and collective educational outreach to remote and underprivileged areas. This Guardian article, for example, mentions the FemTechNet DOOC model as a way to expand educational courses to the global south and provide collaboratively structured courses to said region. It suggests that the FemTechNet approach would allow the courses to be more locally relevant, an aspect the writer considers vital to such outreach. This counter-model to the MOOC rejects an elite top-down lecturing model and thus connects far more effectively with a diversity of communities. Judging by this article’s argument in a prominent newspaper, it is gaining traction within circles discussing online education and collaborative models and may very well pick up as the future model of collaborative education.

One major example of this is in the project FemTechNet undertook with regards to Wikipedia. The “Storming Wikipedia” segment of a course encouraged students to expand FemTech and feminist ways of thinking into Wikipedia, which past research suggests is heavily skewed away from women and feminism in its editors. FemTechNet described it as designed to “to advance feminist principles of social justice in creating educational models and pedagogies for the future,” a stance indicative of this general FemTechNet approach to educational and technalogical reclaiming and diversifying into a new collective strength. It exists in an intersection with many prominent universities, as well, exemplifying the academic outreach and emphasis of FemTech through a collective model over the Internet.

FemTechNet also comes up prominently in several engagements with the art world, particularly in terms of artists who are part of the collective. For example, coverage of one exhibition, “Common Aliens: Diaspora in Time,” designed to map “experiences of time and temporality in relation to bodies that have historically been rendered unmappable,” credits one of its artists as a FemTechNet member, showing how far the community can reach. The principles of FemTech, just as in the educational model, stretch to a local level and shape to it, an art exhibition in a single region. As one writer notes, FemTechNet is unusual in the opportunities it provides, noted as one of very few groups that “aim to level the playing field in terms of accessibility, resources, and opportunities,” offering a rare boost to women of color in new media art. That, then, is the way FemTechNet offers support to the world. It offers a level playing field to a collective and shapes to meet their educational and artistic needs, then helping uplift them to provide technological and artistic outreach of their own.

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